Thursday, August 11, 2016

Verdant Forest Threatened by U.S. Military Buildup in Okinawa

A walk through vibrant forest along Arakawa gawa and Fun gawa

On July 2, the Arakawa-gawa flows through the forest in Takae, Higashi Village where new helipad construction is planned. It is one of few fresh streams left in Okinawa Island.

July 28, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo
By Chie Tome and Chosho Yakabe
The forest in Yambaru, where the U.S. and Japanese governments plan to build new military helipads, is one of Japan’s most treasured nature spots home to more than six thousand kinds of rare and new species of animals and plants. Led by Yambaru butterfly researcher Akino Miyagi, we walked along Arakawa gawa in Higashi Village and Fun gawa in Kunigami Village. These natural wonders stretch along the forest, as if refusing to be changed by human hands.

Arakawa gawa is located a few kilometers from the N1 section of the U.S. Military Northern Training Area.
A semi-endangered species, Rhabdoblatta, is waiting for right time to hatch its eggs. On a tree branch, Japalura polygonata polygonata is trying to conceal itself.
Fun gawa is located near the LZ1 area, where low-level flight training has been carried out. A semi-endangered species if butterfly, Pithecops corvus, flutters around our legs and an Okinawa woodpecker and Ryukyu robin sing away somewhere in the background. A 20-centimeter long Dolomedes orion clings onto a rock face, and Himehabu (Ovophis okinavensis) takes a nap under the shade of a rock. On the tip of a big leaf, you can see a couple of Coeliccia ryukyuensis ryukyuensis mating.
As Miyagi points out a Ryukyu Leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum var. luchuense), she reflects, “Development constructions and low-level flight training have a tremendous impact on plants and animals. Before it’s too late, I hope people will realize that people are also kept alive by this Yambaru forest.”
(English translation by T&CT and Megumi Chibana)

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